African Child Day: A chance to reflect on how children’s rights are preserved

A child is a gift to parents; a citizen of a country; a foundation for a nation; a helper and supporter to friends; a companion to siblings; a hope for generations to come; and so much more than these. Children are made to live with a family that is surrounded by cheering faces and supportive relatives. They have the right to be in school so they get an education that shape them into intellectuals that will propel their nations into development. They hold the future in their hands but they also need assistance to prepare for that future.

Children, like everyone else, have human rights right from their formation in their mothers’ wombs. They have children’s rights to protect them during their childhood. These rights are free, equal, dignifying and protective. Every child matters. Children are a priority. Children deserve the best life can offer. Children can and should participate in making decisions that directly concern them. Abuse, exploitation and violence against children are intolerable and parents, guardians, schools and government are accountable should any child be subjected to any of these.

When the rights of a child are violated he turns to Justice to get retribution but not all children or every child’s guardians know these rights thus when their rights are violated, they are unable to seek justice. The Justice system is an adult world that needs to have a child friendly room in case their rights are violated. Being born into a family as a kid, you expect to grow in family, to feel loved, to learn fundamental values in family but not all get that. In divorce, children have to stay with one parent and this may affect them psychologically. Children need support for their survival and well-being.

In the case of underage pregnancy, rape, child trafficking, forced underage marriage, or any other physical or mental abuse, children may be scared to speak up due to the fear of being stigmatized. Encouragement, guidance, safeguarding, counselling and care is what a child needs in such situations. Due to physical and mental immaturity, they might not know the procedure to follow in order to get justice. In addition, they may be blackmailed by those who violated their rights. Adults need to use their eyes to watch out for them. Adults need to use their voice to speak up for them. This will get them support and empathy from the public.

Not forgetting disabled children whose voices need to be heard as well. Some disabled children live in specialist centers where their health, safety, development and special needs can be met. They also have the right to quality education and also to sports and cultural opportunities.

We live in a world where everything goes and comes around. We live in a world where every action has an outcome. A child-friendly justice system is that which corrects a child that makes them feel corrected and not offended. They have to be aware of the consequences of their bad behaviors, they must know that there are penalties and punishments for wrong doing.  When a child does something that can result in a court case, he needs assistance and knowledge of each step. When he may be imprisoned, he needs to understand that it’s just a punishment and preparation for him to become a better citizen.

Child rights will be accomplished when all kids are in schools and not found on the road begging. It will be achieved when all kids have shelter and not spending the night by the roadside. Things will seem right when children become aware of their rights and their role in society. Most importantly, they need a strong voice which can be heard when they speak.